Lithuania's migrant pushback bill to reach parliament in spring, Latvia mulls similar steps

  • 2023-02-10
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - A bill formalizing in law the Lithuanian government's policy of turning away irregular migrants at the border is expected to reach the parliament in the upcoming spring session, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Friday.

"We are ready to present this draft law in the spring session," she told reporters.

Currently, border guards are turning away irregular migrants on the basis of a decree signed by the interior minister in August 2021 amid an influx of illegal migration from neighboring Belarus.

Bilotaite discussed the issue with Latvian Interior Minister Maris Kucinskis, who is visiting Vilnius on Friday.

Riga is also looking to tackle the issue of barring entry to irregular migrants through legislation.

According to the Lithuanian minister, it is important for countries on the EU's eastern border to have "not only the same standard of border protection, but also similar legal regulations".

Bilotaite's position was echoed by her Latvian counterpart, who said, "If some of them becomes a weak link, it will be a signal that irregular migrants can enter (the EU) via this border."

According to Kucinskis, eastern member countries must speak with one voice at the EU level so that the West understands that the flow of irregular migrants from Belarus "is a hybrid attack".

Bilotaite said that the Lithuanian Interior Ministry is also considering asking the parliament to extend the existing state of emergency when it expires in mid-March.

The state of emergency was imposed on Lithuania's border with Belarus due to a wave of illegal migration in November 2021 and remained in place until mid-January 2022.

The special legal regime was introduced nationwide in late February 2022 after Russia launched its war against Ukraine. It was later limited to the borders with Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, as well as border checkpoints outside Lithuania's border area.

During their meeting on Friday, the Lithuanian and Latvian interior ministers also discussed other border security and civil protection issues.

This is Kucinskis' first foreign visit as Latvia's interior minister.